Canvas Best Practice Recommendations

Full Description

As we add to the number of Shakopee teachers using Canvas we want to maintain some level of similarity of use so as to ease transition for students from class to class. This document presents some recommendations for common themes and practices as teachers design and build courses in Canvas. This guide assumes a basic knowledge of Canvas, such as how to create quizes or assignments or how to change the navigation. 

Home Page
We have created four Home Page templates downloadable from Canvas Commons. Just search for Shakopee. For secondary teachers, we recommend that you use the Syllabus as the home page. This allows for a fully customizable front page, but also includes a list of all items with a due date (Assignments, Quizzes, and Calendar Events) below the page.

The page itself should be clean, contain few words, and emphasize the most important aspects of the course. There should be a statement that official grades are located in Infinite Campus (see grades section below). Below is a screenshot of a course that exemplifies this. Visit Canvas Commons, search for Shakopee, and import the Front Page Syllabus Template to create this homepage in your course.

Canvas home page

Course Navigation
It is recommended that the course navigation (the links on the left side of the page) be minimized so that students only have a couple of places to look for content. In most courses the navigation can probably be limited to only Home and Modules. This is because content, including Quizzes and Assignments, can all be organized in the Modules section, and anything with a due date will also show up on the Calendar and Syllabus. Removing Quizzes and Assignments in the left side navigation does not remove access to those items when organized in Modules, and it makes navigation easier for students.

Some teachers may wish to keep Quizzes or Assignments in the navigation. In that case it is recommended to only use the Assignments section because both quizzes and assignments show up under Assignments, whereas only quizzes are in the Quizzes section. Remember that any assignments or quizzes with due dates will also show up on the Calendar and Syllabus (home page).

Daily Work/Homework
If you are assigning daily work or updating students with what was done in class on a daily basis (as we used to do in rSchool), it is recommended to use either Assignments or Calendar Events to do so. This way students need only look in one place, the calendar, for anything they missed in all classes on any particular day. Note that anything you put on the calendar also goes on the Syllabus, so students may also look directly at your home page for items they missed just from your class (meaning they can look at the Calendar for all classes or the Syllabus for just your class). One possibility here is to use Calendar events for daily updates, as they show up unbolded in the Syllabus, and Assignments for things like tests and quizzes and items that should be turned in, since they show up as bold in the Syllabus.

It is recommended that teachers use Modules to organize content. Quizzes, assignments, pages, links, and much more can all be organized in Modules. Most teachers make a module for each unit they teach, but you may organize them in any fashion you see fit. Modules allow you to list content in a particular order. Below are some helpful tips for organizing modules:

  • Text Headers allow you to separate content within a Module using text
  • Indenting allows content to be clearly organized when separated by text headers
  • You can publish or unpublish an entire module as well as individual components of a module.
  • Content Pages are blank pages that can be customized to include directions or general information about the module.
  • You can allow open access to a module or force students to complete tasks in order.

Screen Shot 2015 04 16 at 11.16.29 AM

Grades in Canvas are NOT official grades for any course; Infinite Campus must always be used to reflect students’ official grades. While parents may follow a course in Canvas, they need the ‘one stop shop’ for their students’ current grades in Infinite Campus. 

Please add a notice on your Canvas homepage similar to the following (which is included in the template above if you choose to use it): Note that any grades in Canvas are not official. Your official (high school) grades are in Infinite Campus.

One thing you can do to simplify grades is to use a compilation of Canvas grades to enter as one score in Infinite Campus. Here are some examples of what this may look like if you do a lot of quizzes on Canvas:

  • If you use Canvas a lot for quizzes, you might lump all those quiz grades (by using a category on Canvas for them all) into one grade in Infinite Campus called “Canvas quizzes”. Then you just update the total points value of that item in Infinite Campus every two weeks (or whatever your building requires).
  • If you use Canvas a lot for formative assessments (quizzes, assignments, discussions), you might include a ‘formative assessment’ grade for each unit and update that grade at the end of each unit. This is especially effective if students are allowed to review or retake formative assessments and their grades as fluctuating during the unit. Canvas can be used to indicate progress, but the grade is in Infinite Campus.

Please contact a DLC if you have any questions at all about using Canvas!  

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